(BPT) - Severe thunderstorms are increasing in frequency and intensity, according to government data that point to more than 16,000 incidents of damaging wind and 5,000 large hail reports in the U.S. last year alone.
This trend is prompting homeowners across the nation to look for new techniques and building materials to limit the impact of these storms, reducing the possibility of extensive damage and expensive repairs that can force families from their homes.
The Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety (IBHS) recommends above-code building practices for designing and constructing new homes in storm-prone areas, and when re-roofing, to strengthen against severe weather. Updated guidance just released is geared toward parts of the country, including the Midwest and parts of the South, that regularly face a combination of weather threats, ranging from large hail and powerful straight-line winds to tornadoes.
The updated building techniques are the result of extensive testing at the nonprofit's research center in Richburg, South Carolina, where scientists recreate severe weather events in a state-of-the-art wind tunnel to identify ways to lessen the damage caused. The latest research has led them to add hail recommendations to the national standard for building stronger homes.
While IBHS says no home should be considered storm- or tornado-proof, homes built following the FORTIFIED Home-High Wind & Hail standard have proven effective against weather conditions as harsh as up to EF-2 level winds and 2-inch hail. As a result, homes with this designation qualify homeowners for insurance discounts in some states.
“Building to FORTIFIED standards is an effective and relatively affordable way to combat winds up to EF-2 levels, and it’s important to note tornadoes rated as EF-4 or EF-5 have very small areas where the winds are that strong,” explains Tanya Brown-Giammanco, managing director of research at IBHS. “In those storms, many of the homes actually face significantly lower wind speeds than those at the core, so building to this standard allows us to effectively narrow the path of damage, which can bring peace of mind to homeowners routinely threatened by tornadoes and high winds.”
IBHS recommends the following steps to better protect your home from high winds and hail:
- If you believe your roof is damaged, have it inspected by a reputable, local roofing contractor. Shingles that are loose or unsealed should be re-secured with roofing cement.
- If your roof needs to be replaced, have your roofing contractor follow the beyond-code FORTIFIED standards that require using more and stronger nails to keep the roof connected to the house, sealing the cracks in the roof decking to keep rain out even if your home faces a storm strong enough to blow some shingles off, and locking down the edges of the roof.
- In areas that see large hail, select a high-performing impact-resistant shingle rated excellent or good in IBHS's most recent testing.
“When it comes to protecting our homes, we’re not helpless in the face of severe weather, and a strong roof is the first line of defense,” adds Brown-Giammanco. “When it’s time for a new roof, whether it’s due to recent storm damage or simply aging, homeowners can benefit from the latest building science to avoid future damage, possibly saving significantly more in future repairs.”
For more information about building stronger to reduce the risk of loss from severe weather, visit fortifiedhome.org/hail.